Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

O'Neill blasted for storming out of Irish language talk

Walkout: Liam O'Neill left before the speech was finished

President Liam O'Neill could be forced into a humiliating climbdown, after he confronted a GAA employee delivering a speech in Croke Park on Saturday before staging a public walkout before the address was completed.

Dónal McAnallen, an employee of the Ulster Council, was in Croke Park on Saturday delivering a presentation on the Irish language, when O'Neill interrupted the session and made a number of angry allegations, to the effect that McAnallen was in some way harming the Irish language.

He was in Croke Park delivering a presentation on measures that county language officers and clubs could use in order to advance the use of Irish language within their units.

O'Neill took exception to the content of the text and confronted McAnallen.

When McAnallen began to explain, O'Neill refused to listen and departed the room.

Seán Ó Maoilsté, the Irish Language Officer for the Armagh county board was present in the room at the meeting.

“I was completely and utterly shocked,” he said.

“The worst thing about it is there were people there who are offering funding for a competition and he walked out on them.

“The presentation was just about what things the club could do and there were a number of suggestions.

“I don't know why, but O'Neill obviously took exception to a few of them.

“He went on the defensive but I honestly think he was completely out of order.

“Dónal is a gentleman and there is no way he would have went out of his way to try to offend.

“Dónal wasn't saying that this should be done, he just said that it is something that clubs could consider and he (O'Neill) just went off on one. It was out of order.

“The reason why he walked out was inexplicable.

“It was ridiculous and very offensive to everybody who was there.

“There were people from Sligo, Offaly and they all said the same thing. People were there from Donegal and for them to come down to Croke Park to a meeting and Liam O'Neill to storm out for no reason, other than I presume stress, I think was offensive to everybody.

“I think that Dónal is owed a personal apology and I think there should be an apology to everyone at the meeting.”

Other county board representatives who were present at the meeting backed up this version of events.

This latest row comes after the uncertainty surrounding the Garth Brooks concerts and the possible withdrawal of the Croke Park windfall.

A spokesperson for the GAA replied and confirmed that O’Neill did leave the meeting adding: “He was disappointed at the tone and tenor of some of the comments and at one presentation in particular, in light of the fact of how passionate he has been and continued to be in favour of the Irish language.

“Not least as a primary school teacher but also since assuming the role of presidency of the GAA.”

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